FAQ: Hip Replacement

What is osteoarthritis and why does my hip hurt?

Joint cartilage is a tough, smooth tissue the covers the end of the bones where joints are located. It helps cushion the bones during movement, and because it is smooth and slippery, it allows for motion with minimal friction.

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a wear and tear condition that destroys joint cartilage. Sometimes as the result of trauma, repetitive movement, or for no apparent reason, the cartilage wears down, exposing bone ends. This can occur quickly over months or may take years to occur.

Cartilage destruction can result in painful bone-on-bone contact, along with swelling and loss of motion. Osteoarthritis usually occurs later in life and may affect only one joint or many joints.

What is total hip replacement?

A total hip replacement is an operation that removes the arthritic ball of the upper femur (thigh bone) as well as damaged bone and cartilage from the hip socket. The ball is replaced with at metal ball that is fixed solidly inside the femur. The socket is replaced with a plastic or metal liner that is usually fixed inside a metal shell to create a smoothly functioning joint.

What are the results of total hip replacement?

Results will vary depending on the quality of the surrounding tissue, the severity of the arthritis at the time of surgery, the patient’s activity level, and the patient’s adherence to the doctor’s orders.

When should I have this type of surgery?

Your orthopedic surgeon will decide if you are a candidate for the surgery. The decision will be based on your history, exam, x-rays, and response to conservative treatment.

Am I too old for this surgery?

Age is generally not an issue if you are in reasonable health and have the desire to continue living a productive, active life. You may be asked to see your personal physician for his/her opinion about your general health and readiness for surgery.

How long will my new hip last?

All implants have a limited life expectancy depending on the individual’s age, weight, activity level, and other medical condition(s). A total joint implant’s longevity will vary in every patient. It is important to remember that an implant is a medical device subject to wear that may lead to mechanical failure. While it is important to follow all of your surgeon’s recommendations after surgery, there is no guarantee that you particular implant will last for any specific length of time.

Why might I require a revision?

Just as your original joint wears out, a joint replacement will wear over time as well. The most common reason for revision is loosening of the artificial surface from the bone. If your joint has a plastic spacer, wearing of the plastic spacer may also result in the need for a new spacer. Dislocation of the hip after surgery is a risk. Your surgeon will explain the possible complications associated with a total hip replacement.

What are the possible complications associated with joint replacement?

While uncommon, complications can occur during and after surgery. Some complications include infections, blood clots, implant breakage, misalignment, dislocation, and premature wear, any of which may necessitate implant removal/replacement surgery. Generally, these devices are successful in attaining reduced pain and restoring normal function. Although implant surgery is extremely successful in most cases, some patient’s post-surgical activities and weight can affect longevity. Be sure to discuss these and other risks with surgeon.

Should I exercise before the surgery?

Yes, you should consult your surgeon and physical therapist about the exercise appropriate for you. The more prepared you are for surgery the better the potential recovery. Strengthening your entire body may help you perform daily activities after your new hip surgery.

Will I need blood?

You may need blood after the surgery. You may use the community blood supply, have your relatives donate for you or donate you own blood, if you are able.

When will I begin rehabilitation and get discharged?

You will probably stay in bed the day of your surgery. However, the next morning you will put on comfortable clothes and begin your rehabilitation program. This program stresses early, extensive physical activity to help you prepare to go home. Most individuals will be discharged on the third day after surgery so if your surgery is on Monday, your discharge would be on Thursday.

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